hip hop music

April 5, 2006

Straight Talk on New Orleans

Another must-read from Minneapolis' finest, Peter Scholtes, who used to reside in N.O.:

Juvenile's New Orleans, the ghost town America made

...This is what Barney Frank has called "a policy of ethnic cleansing by inaction," and the response from many liberals has been self-fulfilling pessimism—Tim Harford in Slate takes the failed tourist economy for granted, while Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker conflates geological inevitability with manmade folly in sinking Louisiana. Many conservatives, meanwhile, shirk federal responsibility for the floods. Either way, the reality of the New Orleans that I knew when I lived here—that the overwhelming majority of residents worked, and worked hard, in exactly the kinds of jobs most needed to rebuild—seems lost on most American leaders.

And what do New Orleans rappers have to say? Not much. Juvenile lost a house on Lake Pontchartrain, and astutely sets the video for "Get Ya Hustle On" in the home-owning, blue-collar Lower Ninth rather than his Magnolia projects stamping ground. Yet his lyrics bond with the only day laborers hip hop romanticizes. "To all my people on them corners I consider ya as dogs," Juve rasps, adding, "I wish I could break a package down and send it to y'all." In case you were wondering what kind of package he means, he adds: "Everybody need a check from FEMA/So he can go and score him some co-ca-ina."

Dealers have families, too, of course. But pre-Katrina life in the N.O. was more complex than Juvenile's largely pre-storm Reality Check (Atlantic) would suggest, at least to judge by Nik Cohn's 2005 memoir Triksta: Life & Death & New Orleans Rap (Knopf). Though the late Soulja Slim is held up by many as a thug's folk hero (Juvenile dedicates his album to him, as well as to "the victims of Hurricane Katrina"), gangster rappers overwhelmingly work long hours at square jobs—in construction, roofing, teaching. Where are the bounce anthems for bricklayers?

Posted by jsmooth995 at April 5, 2006 2:47 PM

Weblog Archives